AJC Annual Report on AMIA Bombing: Trial Exposes Executive, Judicial Corruption

AJC Annual Report on AMIA Bombing: Trial Exposes Executive, Judicial Corruption

November 29, 2001

November 29, 2001 -  NEW YORK -- NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee has issued a new report on the investigation and trial of the bombing of the central Jewish communal building in Buenos Aires. The 1994 blast razed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) building, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds.

The report, Seeking the Truth: The AMIA Bombing Goes to Trial, comes just weeks after the opening of the Buenos Aires trial of 20 suspects, including Argentine policemen and petty criminals. While the trial of these collaborators is a significant development, the organizers of the attack remain unknown.

“Seven years after the bombing it is clear that many who were supposed to work to shed light on the attack actually hampered, delayed, and sabotaged the investigation for political reasons,” writes Argentine journalist Sergio Kiernan, who authored the AJC report.

Kiernan provides a detailed history of the investigation and the first weeks of the trial, as well as an overview of life in contemporary Argentina, a society now in the midst of serious economic and political crises.

“The trial is seen as a twofold event,” notes Kiernan. “It is a chance to mete out justice to 20 policemen and petty crooks who supplied the van for money and probably knew, at least, that it would be used in a bombing.”

“On another level,” he continues, “it is a revisiting of the investigation, a chance to expose the work of the officials in charge.”

Indeed, in the early days of the trial the head of the investigation, Federal Judge Juan José Galeano, admitted to destroying evidence. The judge is now under criminal investigation.

The three-judge court ordered Galeano to release all evidence. Among the items never before revealed was an envelope marked simply “Witness C,” containing the transcribed interrogations of an unnamed former member of Iran’s secret service.

Witness C’s shocking revelations implicate former Argentine President Carlos Menem in a conspiracy with the government of Iran. According to C, Iran operates a gunrunning network based in Buenos Aires. C claimed that the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing, which he linked to Menem, facilitated trade between Argentina and Iran. Further, C charged, Menem received $10 million from the Iranian government.

“The most remarkable thing about these grave allegations is that Judge Galeano did not probe them,” writes Kiernan. “He simply locked C’s statement away.”

The harshest, but by no means only, accusations against Galeano are made by a former aide, Claudio Lifchitz. He charges the judge manipulated evidence, doctored testimony, induced statements and paid an accused $400,000 to turn state’s evidence.

Furthermore, he says, Argentine intelligence knew the Iranians were planning an attack but failed to prevent the AMIA bombing. Covering for Menem and Argentine intelligence, Lifchitz claims, became a priority for Galeano during the investigation.

“Given the current international focus on the pervasive threat of terrorism, it is more important than ever that the roots of these acts of violence be uncovered and the perpetrators brought to justice,” said Jason Isaacson, director of AJC’s Washington-based Office of Government and International Affairs.

The American Jewish Committee, with its strong ties to the Jewish community of Argentina and a cooperative institutional affiliation with AMIA, has been monitoring the course of this judicial process with diligent concern.

Immediately after the AMIA bombing, an AJC delegation flew to Buenos Aires to express solidarity with the community. AJC’s senior consultant for Latin American affairs and a member of the agency’s legal staff were present at the opening sessions of the trial. On each anniversary of the tragedy, AJC has published an update by Kiernan on the investigation.

Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771 PR@ajc.org

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385 rothl@ajc.org

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